1880s Buckbee-made James Morrison 5-String Banjo

I've never had the chance to see one of these Morrison-brand banjos directly, so I was surprised and pleased when someone called me up today telling me he'd be over for "some strings for his banjo" and the banjo in question wasn't a 70s Japanese import of questionable merit, but cool, chunky old gut/nylon-strung beast.

Long-time blog readers will know that I adore old 1880s/1890s Buckbees -- they're what got me into working on banjos in the first place. This one is up the Buckbee-built food-chain and appears to have a walnut neck with ebony fretboard (thicker than average), the typical "boat heel" of the earlier Bucks, and a long ("professional") scale length and 11" rim. It had some condition issues but I gave it a decent setup despite the warped-ish neck and replaced the missing low (D) string.

What makes Morrison-branded Buckbees "more special" than your average Buckbee-built banjo is that they have a big, round, hoop tonering installed on posts coming out from the top edge of the rim. This makes it a very early "tonering" instrument.

For fun with early tonerings, also check out this Buck-made "Hoseus."

The pearl work is nice, bold, and accurate.

I know the bridge isn't ideal (visually) for the period of the instrument, but it was the only 5/8" I had on hand for a 5-stringer so it "made the cut."

The original tailpiece is quite cool, though.

The 5th-string "ledge" is nicely-sculpted.


Warren said…
Wow, nice one. Love the peg head shape too.